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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Four students capture ‘Deis culture and limits in viral video

Published: February 10, 2012
Section: Featured

If you haven’t yet seen “Sh*t Brandeis Students Don’t Say,” then you may actually have been helped by the Hiatt Career Center or be the lone kid in the stands at the Judges game.

The video created by four Brandeis students pokes fun at more than 100 you-have-to-go-to-Brandeis-to-get-it stereotypes and has been viewed more than 8,500 times and counting since it was uploaded to YouTube two days ago. Not only will Brandeis students be the only people who can get most of the sardonic humor, but the video’s makers assert that just about each and every Brandeisian will be able to understand it, without fail.

“Sh*t” demonstrates, for instance, that no Brandeis student goes to Ollie’s sober, enjoys UWS or misses Jehuda Reinharz. No student is having much sex and never, ever wonders where the “weird kids” are.

Paul Gale and Adam Lapetina, both class of 2012, and Aaron Sadowsky and Joshua Seiden, both class of 2013, put the video together this week, going from brainstorming session holders to viral video makers in a matter of days.

“We had this idea and wanted to make a funny video, and even though the ‘things people say’ meme is tried and old, it’s the most universal way to attract people and apply to everyone,” Gale said.

The project started out of Brandeis Basement, the local chapter of the Campus Basement network that, according to Seiden, “provides blogging for campus-specific comedic content.”

The comedic cohort have produced videos as part of Brandeis Basement before, but none of the other short clips presaged the success that “Sh*t” has seen. Former videos had about 1,000 to 2,000 hits.

“We thought it was pretty well done, maybe figured that people would see it and like it,” Seiden said, “but we didn’t anticipate the level of mouth-to-mouth spreading this would take on.”

This week’s stereotype sensation has of course been viewed by a number more than twice as high as that of all Brandeis students enrolled.

And the success has not been limited to just the campus. Lapetina said, “We’ve heard from alumni, who are passing it on to older and older generations of Brandeisians.”

Nor, even, has the phenomenon been just students. When one of the lines in the meme had the sentence “I just had my first meeting with J. Scott Van Der Meid,” followed by “You mean Scott Van Der Meooow,” the man himself, the director of study abroad, gave his approval.

According to Gale, “he just won’t stop talking about it.” Van Der Meid even sent a group e-mail informing all his staff and co-workers that “No, you cannot start calling me ‘Meow.’” Now he’s made sure his entire staff sees “Sh*t” and will be calling him this new moniker behind his back.

But so will the rest of Academic Services and administration: Even the head of academic advising, P.J. Dickson, has the video splashed all over his Facebook page.

Lapetina said the making of the video was a completely collaborative effort, with each of them contributing to the stream of satire that fills the 3:53 minute video.

“We all had specific lines that we wrote and were attached to, and others that were more ambiguous in terms of authorship were spread around to each other and some extras,” he said. All involved took turns shooting the scenes, which are quick-paced and were out of order before editing.

These scenes of the video themselves were filmed all around campus, and the ease of shot locations helped the crew put in the precisely 156 Brandeisian witticisms. For seniors Gale and Lapetina it was described as “a farewell tour.”

One of the especially memorable pokes involved the names of some of the most well-known names on campus—which happen to be the same one.

“Who’s … Herr—biee Rosen … ?” the video asks (which no Brandeis student does), blatantly referring to the student body president.

Next, pretending to correct: “Do you mean Ricky Rosen, the people’s president?”

The second Rosen is (by comparison, anyway) an active student senator who has this year worked seemingly parallel to the executive Rosen’s efforts, with the two often working toward the same goal without coordination.

“Ricky was seemingly pleased he was featured—until he found out the specific joke,” one creator teased.

The makers of “Sh*t” confessed that they have no opinion on the two’s Union (counter)activities one way or another, and simply meant to acknowledge their widespread name-recognition.

Much of the material is meant in that way, satirical rather than negatively sarcastic. Perhaps the most striking line in the video comes from Sadowsky:

“I’ve never been to the psychologist before.”

Dark and caustic, but so very apt, those informally polled said.

That reaction, the writers said, is exactly the one for which they were shooting.

“We almost felt bad, because every clip was so harsh,” Gale said but, as Seiden finished it, they don’t anticipate anyone being offended.

“We meant only to be satirical, harp on the commonly accepted notions that make Brandeis what it is,” he continued.

The “Sh*t” staff never anticipated the sheer popularity of the piece, but now they are already planning a sequel. “We just have to top it,” Gale said. “What makes the video is the sheer amount of extras,” Seiden said, “and we were very inclusive, had every element of Brandeis in the piece.”

Gale said the primary reason for “Sh*t Brandeis Students Don’t Say” having exploded and been so successful was because students are actually seeing and confirming this, that the video “is Brandeis, as a whole.”